Fitzgerald CO’s Attorneys Claim The Navy Is Trying To Smear Him In Negligent Homicide Case
Attorneys for the former captain of the Navy destroyer USS Fitzgerald, charged with negligent homicide in the deaths of seven U.S. sailors during last July’s collision with a commercial vessel off the coast of Japan, have lashed out at the Navy for allegedly “litigating this case through the media.”
Benson attorneys, Lt. Cmdr. Justin Henderson and Cmdr. Ben Robertson, issued a blistering May 15 statement alleging that Navy leadership has publicly portrayed their client Benson — who was absent from the bridge when the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer Fitzgerald collided with container ship ACX Crystal on June 17, 2017 — as guilty instead of presumed innocent
The attorneys cite a May 8 Navy news release that says the Fitzgerald’s officer of the deck “accepted responsibility for the role she played in the USS Fitzgerald collision” by pleading guilty.
“That implication is that anyone, especially a commanding officer, who does not plead guilty is declining to ‘accept responsibility,’” Henderson said in an email. “This comes from the public affairs arm of the [Chief of Naval Operations], who has repeatedly identified collision as the fault of the commanding officer.’”
Benson’s defense is making a good case, said Marine Lt. Col. Guy Womack, a military defense attorney and legal expert based in Houston. Womack, who called the attorney’s statement “excellent and well-founded,” told Task & Purpose that the Navy is likely struggling to convict Benson of negligent homicide because the service would have to prove that Benson caused the deaths of the seven sailors either by his actions or failure to act.
Indeed, Benson stands a good chance of being acquitted based on the facts of the case. The skipper was asleep in his stateroom and seriously injured when the bow of the other ship crushed his quarters, leaving him hanging from …read more
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